The difference between a ‘creator’ and an ‘influencer’ and why it’s crucial you know the distinction.


Aren’t they all the same?!

While most marketing folks use the terms interchangeably, the truth is that there are some notable differences between creators and influencers. Differences that can impact how brands build out their influencer marketing strategy today, tomorrow, and into the future. 

Want to know what they are? 

Strap in, and grab your notebook, and we are going to share everything you need to know about creators, influencers, and how the two work together.

Let’s get into it…

A content creator painting art while lying on the ground.

What is a creator?

Creators are people who make content for social media platforms, blogs, websites, and other digital entities.  

Creators are focused on making content about a specific niche that they are deeply passionate about and have become an expert in over time. This content comes in the form of writing, videos, music, etc—the main connector is that it is all shared on the internet in some form.  

A simple way to think about creators is that they make bespoke content about the things that interest them. They’re not creating content with the primary goal of garnering followers, but instead crafting stories that inspire them and entertain their audience.

Simply put, creators make content for the sake of making content.

A creator’s brand is all about the content they produce and share with their audience. As a result, creator audiences tend to be deeply interested and highly engaged with the creator and what they share because they are also hooked on that type of content. 

One thing that makes creators stand alone amongst the rest is their pure dedication to creativity. They see themselves as artists and creatives first, and as such, always ensure that comes before everything. Even if their followers were to fall to the wayside, you would still find creators making content out of an inherent desire to make things.

Here’s an example of a creator in the wild:

Meet TikTok baseball coach Robert Anthony Cruz (coach.rac).

Social media baseball coach Robert Anthony Cruz.
Social media baseball coach Robert Anthony Cruz.

Coach Rac played baseball his entire life and when the time came to step away from the playing game after college, he took to the TikTok feed to start coaching.

Since 2020, Coach Rac has been sharing baseball knowledge and training tips that help young players elevate their game. From mental hitting tips to game day prep, basic baseball etiquette to daily practice routines, Coach Rac shares content that educates and entertains baseball fans and future players.

Whether someone is looking to improve the physical or mental side of their game, Coach Rac’s content is the perfect tool for youth looking to grow in baseball. Whether he had 500 followers or 500k, you can almost guarantee he’s going to continue making baseball content because he loves it. 

Sidenote: take a peek at his feed and observe how most of his content is not sponsored. You’ll find a few posts here and there highlighting a program or equipment he recommends to players, but for the most part, this creator's content is organic.

What is an influencer?

An influencer is someone who has built a personal brand and established a reputation online in a specific niche or industry. 

Influencers are focused on growing their own brand by sharing their life on social media channels like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

We see these people every single day on our social feeds and explorer pages showcasing their lifestyles and often promoting new products that align with their brands. Some influencers have millions of followers while others have a few hundred thousand, and there are even influencers with a couple of thousand followers that we like to call micro-influencers—these folks are especially engaged with their followers.

Speaking of followers, there’s one important thing to note about influencers and their audiences:

Influencers aspire to inspire.

Their content stimulates, motivates, and encourages followers to explore themselves. Their content takes the little slices of life and shares them with millions in the hope that they too will resonate and take action.

That’s why when you see influencer content it often has a product or service featured in it. 

Due to their dedicated audience and established reputation in a niche space, influencers are often approached by brands who want to partner with them and introduce their products to new folks such as their followers.

Knowing that the audience trusts the influencer and is already interested in their niche, these brands can inject themselves into the discussion without feeling foreign to this new audience.

Here’s an example of an influencer in the wild:

Meet Jackson Olson (jacksonolson_).

Screenshot of influencer Jackson Olson on TikTok.
Influencer Jackson Olson on TikTok.

Jackson is a baseball TikTok influencer who’s been hot on the feed after joining the widely popular, semi-professional baseball team, Savannah Bananas. As a baseball creator, Jackson is all about sharing the different parts of the game that he loves with his audience of over 850k followers. 

Whether he’s giving a juicy review of the College World Series food stands, ranking the best MLB stadiums, or sharing behind-the-scenes from Savannah Banana games, Jackson keeps his audience engaged almost every day with new content centered on baseball.

Jackson’s mixture of lifestyle, sport, and the perfect amount of food content makes for the prime example of how an influencer can establish themselves in a niche and grow a substantial following. He’s not just a baseball influencer, he’s a baseball culture entertainer. 

And though you might not see products in all of his videos, Jackson does share branded content that is subtle yet very effective.

For example, all the posts containing the Savannah Bananas logo or colors are a direct promotion of the team and its games–subtle and effective. Similarly, Jackson completed an MLB stadium tour during the summer of 2022 highlighting all the stadiums in the league and what it was like to go to games at each one—another subtle but effective approach. 

Jackson found his tight niche within the baseball space and earned a reputation as an influencer that has landed him tons of marketing opportunities with major baseball brands like the MLB, NCAA, College World Series, and Disney.

What’s the difference between a creator and an influencer?

The difference between creators and influencers is simple: creators make content for the sake of making content and sharing it online. Influencers make content to grow their personal brand and highlight their lives on social media.

One is doing it for creativity, the other is doing it for the personal brand.

Now that being said, that does not mean that creators only create and influencers only focus on their brand. 

The reality is that both of these people crossover with one another. Not all folks are 100% influencer or 100% creator—most are a blend of both with some leaning toward one or the other. 

Influencers can make great content that focuses on creativity and storytelling over personal brand and promotion, the same way that creators can make content that is more promotional and less focused on the creative execution aspect.

To give a clear comparison, let’s look at a creator and influencer in the same industry: health and fitness. 

Creator - Eric Champ (@champcityatx

Content creator Eric Champ's Instagram profile.
Screenshot of Instagram creator Eric Champ's Instagram feed.
Source: @champcityatx

Eric Champ wasn’t always a health coach. He started on a personal fitness journey spawned by a desire to be around and active for his newly born children. Over the course of 5 years, Eric started dropping weight and falling in love with his new health journey, so he started sharing it on Instagram. 

At first, his content was workouts and meals, then it turned into full training sessions and health guidance. Before he knew it, Eric had become a full-fledged fitness creator with a highly engaged audience. Now 7 years later, he has over 214k Instagram followers, a fitness training company that helps hundreds of clients, and continues to share health content for free across all of his social media channels.

What makes Eric a creator is that he’s always drawn back to the story of health—both his own and the people he works with. As a result, he continues to push content to his audience because he knows the value it brings to them and wants to share it without expecting anything in return. 

Sure, you will see sponsored content here and there—like his paid promotion of Ten Thousand Clothing—but at the end of the day, he’s making content to help others and share his story. 

Influencer - Maxx Chewning (maxxchewning)

Screen shot of influencer Maxx Chewning's Instagram.
Screenshot of influencer Maxx Chewning's Instagram feed.
Source: @maxxchewning

Maxx Chewning loves the gym. What started as a passion for fitness quickly grew into a lifestyle obsession that he began sharing on YouTube back in 2011. Most of his content back then was focused entirely on training and physique updates and gradually evolved into a mixture of lifestyle and health content. As time went on, he started to explore new avenues for growing his following, one of which was Instagram.

After connecting with other major fitness influencers like Christian Guzman, Maxx developed partnerships with budding brands like Ghost Lifestyle (supplement brand) and Gymshark (fitness apparel). As Maxx continued to grow on the social feeds, so did business opportunities which led to the development of his brand’s Sour Strips (alternative sour candy) and Ever Forward Apparel (fitness apparel)—both of which are health-focused companies that also work with influencers.

What makes Maxx’s content specifically influencer content is the end goal. One peek at his Instagram feed and you can see that Maxx wants to inspire his audience and pushes them to explore a variety of different realms in health and lifestyle. Whether it be some healthier version of a classic snack or some outfit inspiration for your next training session, Maxx hits his audience with content that enhances his personal brand and encourages his audience to grow. 

He’s sharing the small slices of his lifestyle that will often spawn action in his audience.

As a result, when he highlights a new pre-workout energy drink, health supplement, or alternative snack in his content, his audience flocks to the feeds of those brands and tries it for themselves. 

See the difference between the two?

Both of these individuals operate in the same space online but serve different functions. They crossover in many areas, but each of them has a specific purpose that differs from the other. 

Creators share, and influencers inspire.

Now let’s talk about brands…

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Why brands might want to work with creators and influencers.

If you’re in the marketing game, we can assume you want to know the real benefits of working with these two types of people, so here’s the TL;DR.  

Benefits of working with creators:

1. Establishes quality over quantity.

Creators are focused on the content quality first. They will not shortcut the content for the sake of speed, but instead, spend extra time ensuring this fits their creative vision. If you hire a creator to make something using their creative taste, you are going to get back a strong piece of content that has been thoroughly thought out and executed at a high level because they have experience. 

2. Legitimizes brands within a particular niche.

Creators have the pulse on their niche and are widely respected by their peers and other experts. They are always growing and exploring this niche with the goal of learning more. As a result, the brands that work with them get to travel with them along this journey.

As a bonus, most creators are usually experienced in creative strategy and marketing and can add significant value to a campaign with their expertise in this niche. They know their subject better than anyone else, including how to talk about it. 

3. Builds faithful followings.

Creators have established respect with their audience and when they talk, people listen. They know the space the best, so the audience, who loves the space as well, is going to follow their lead.

As such, if a creator works with a brand to promote their product, chances are the audience will convert and buy that product—it’s like receiving a recommendation from a trusted friend. But bear in mind that most creators don’t just work with any brand or business, they are very selective about who they work with.

If your brand doesn’t align with the creator’s mission or goals, they are not to share it with their audience. In turn, when a creator does highlight a brand or product, the audience is eager to learn more about it because they know the creator truly cares.  

Benefits of working with influencers:

1. Grows brand awareness.

Influencers are a great avenue for brands that want to grow their reach beyond their current limits. If you’re a brand already sharing organic content on your channels, there are only so many places your content can go. With influencers, content gets circulated across multiple social media channels and platforms, bringing millions of eyes to the product or services that they are highlighting.

Because these influencers have such a strong rapport with their audience when they introduce this product or service to their followers and other connected channels, the awareness of your brand increases dramatically.

2. Access to a greater audience.
The beautiful thing about influencers is that they cast a massively-wide net when it comes to content distribution. Because they have thousands, sometimes millions, of followers, the content they share gets distributed to a wide variety of followers, including people that come from different demographics, regions, age ranges, interests, and more.

From that, brands are able to come into contact with more potential followers and end customers via the help of influencers who cover a wider, less niche, range of interests and subtopics. 

3. Moves the marketing needle forward.
Every marketing manager wants to move the needle forward no matter what. Influencers can make that happen in both the short term and the long term.

In the short term, it gives brands a more authentic way to connect with their audience. Think about how many followers love seeing organic product post after organic product post? Not many.

But when you add an influencer to the mix, the content shared is more engaging and likely to convert a one-time visitor into a full-time follower.

In the long term, influencers become token spokespeople for brands, and over time, both the brand’s followers and the influencer’s followers come to create a newer, larger digital community that drives growth for both parties involved.

As the influencer grows and finds success so do the brands associated, and vice versa. 

Why you should consider working with both creators and influencers…

Most people are going to ask, “which one should I work with if I want to make money?

The answer is both.

Depending on the goals that you have for a campaign, you might lean more toward one or the other, but often the most effective way to work with these folks is to leverage both of their skills and reach. 

Here’s why…

Everyone needs a generalist and a specialist. 

The Generalist

Influencers are the generalists of their niches and industries. They touch on many different subcategories inside their focus and have a grip on what audiences are saying about their specific niche. 

Often they speak on behalf of their group as they have the input of the largest audience within their focus. Think of it like this, influencers are an inch deep and a mile wide—they might not know all the little details, but they can see the big picture.

They can reach larger audiences due to their massive followings as well as infiltrate different groups of potential customers that would otherwise never meet the brand. Top that off with some experience in brand partnerships and they make for the perfect candidate to share your brand with the world—or at least the audiences you’ve been searching for. 

The Specialist

Creators are the specialists of the content community. 

Everyone knows that specialists have dedicated significant amounts of time to hone a craft. As such, creators are people who have invested the hours and built the creative processes that yield compelling content. 

The result of working with folks like this can be quite impactful for brands long term.

Creators have experience and expertise that is tough to match. Between their passion and their follower's love for their content, it’s inevitable that partnering with a creator long-term can deliver content that will serve brands forever, not just a season. 

Now imagine what can happen when you combine these two together to make a marketing cocktail that rocks the internet. 

We call that magic.

Final thoughts on creators vs influencers…

There you have it, a complete breakdown of the differences between creators and influencers and how you can work with both can catapult your business to the top of the social feed.

Let’s recap what we covered so you can go forth and start finding the right folks for your brand.

Creators make content for themselves and their audience to entertain and educate. Influencers make content to grow their personal brand and inspire their audience to do the same.

Influencers bring the people in, creators keep the people around. When you work with both, you can grow far beyond ever before.

But remember, this doesn’t happen overnight, and finding the right mixture of strategies requires time and testing.

That’s why partnering with people who are experts in all things creators and influencers can alleviate the headaches of going it alone and ensure that you find success along the way. 

You want to find success right?

We’d love to make it happen. 

Here's where you get the stuff we don't  put  on the blog. Learn how to craft an entire TikTok marketing strategy from scratch, plus get access to our proprietary data on the top 100 creators and brands on TikTok by industry— and a lot more.

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